By GENE SCHMITZ
University of Missouri Extension Livestock Specialist
Many cow-calf producers purchase new bulls in March and April. Managing these young bulls between now and the beginning of the breeding season is critical to their longevity in your herd.
A large number of young bulls have been in feeding programs where they have been fed to gain 2 to 4 pounds per day from weaning to sale day. It is important to keep young bulls gaining about 2 pounds per day from the time they arrive on your place until you turn them in with the cows. They are still growing and maturing and need extra energy reserves going into the breeding season.
A bull, regardless of age, should be in a body condition score of 6 prior to the start of the breeding season. Don't forget about bulls after you turn them in with the cows either. You may need to provide some supplement in the pasture to keep them from loosing too much condition.
Pay attention to feet and leg problems. Long or curled hooves could be a result of nutrition, genetics or a combination of the two. Bulls with this problem may not stay too long in the herd. Bulls need to be able to travel freely. A bull walking on smooth, level ground should put his rear hoof down in the track left by the front hoof.
Make sure you know what diseases the bulls have been vaccinated against. They should be vaccinated against both respiratory and reproductive diseases. Also check on the parasite control and do that if necessary.
Your bulls should all pass a breeding soundness exam. This will ensure they are able to do the job you bought them to do. Be sure the bull is producing adequate sperm with high motility and does not have a large number of abnormal cells.
If problems are detected, it is still not too late to purchase a new bull, but time is beginning to get short. Avoid the temptation to just get a bull to "settle the cows". Much of the financial health of your business depends on getting as many pounds of calf sold from your farm as possible. Poor performing bulls or bulls with poor EPD's are a liability that most producers can't afford.
If you have questions or would like more information about bull management, contact me at the Extension Center in Warsaw at (660) 438-5012. University of Missouri Extension is an equal opportunity / ADA institution.